May 29, 2019
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Dwight Diller, a world-renowned banjo, fiddle player and teacher in traditional Appalachian mountain music or old-time music, received the Vandalia Award from West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History Curator Randall Reid-Smith at the Friday evening Vandalia Award Concert.
Diller was born in 1946 in Rand, Kanawha County, but grew up in Pocahontas County where he has lived most of his life. He is a master of the clawhammer banjo while adding to this a repertoire of vocals and fiddle playing.
His discography is extensive, including 15 commercially released music albums and five one-hour instructional DVDs. His recordings of music and stories of the Hammons Family continue to have a sizable impact on today’s traditional old-time musicians and Appalachian cultural anthropologists. Some of this material was included as a Library of Congress collection and a record album.
Diller has taught and performed throughout much of the United States, Canada and England. He has hosted many banjo camps and has taught more than 1,000 students. He also taught at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshops in Elkins for 30 years. In 2013, Dwight received the Mountaineer Heritage Award at West Virginia University.
George Daugherty was born in Mannington, Marion County, grew up in Elkview, Kanawha County, and was an entertainer, toastmaster, songwriter, wit and musician. He was beloved by many as the “Earl of Elkview,” and he traveled around the world singing and talking about West Virginia and the values of Appalachian culture. Daugherty logged more than 3,000 performances across West Virginia and most of the United States, as well as numerous performances in Ireland.
Marvine Loving was a very gifted musician; she played rhythm guitar and autoharp and had a beautiful singing voice. Loving, along with her husband John, played music all around the Mountain State and the tri-state area. She performed at 25 consecutive Vandalia Gatherings. She also was an avid crafter with hand-pieced quilts, crochet and needlework.
Judson Wallace of Armstrong Creek, Fayette County, West Virginia, was a bass singer for the United Gospel Singers. The United Gospel Singers electrified listeners at the 2004 FOOTMAD Festival at the Fayette County Park and at a Vandalia Gathering evening concert. The United Gospel Singers were featured in Goldenseal, West Virginia's magazine of folklife, in an article titled “We’re Here for Service: United Gospel Singers.”
The Vandalia Award proclamation presented to Diller reads:
Whereas Dwight Diller grew up in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, and has distinguished himself as a historian, philosopher, Mennonite pastor, and consummate clawhammer banjo player, fiddle player and teacher; and
Whereas Dwight grew up having instilled in him the mountain culture of east central West Virginia; and
Whereas he is a world-renowned old-time musician, and his discography includes 15 commercially released music albums and five one-hour instructional DVDs; and
Whereas his recordings of music and stories of the Hammons Family continue to be a major influence on today’s traditional old-time musicians and Appalachian cultural anthropologists; and
Whereas Dwight has taught and performed in countless venues across North America, including a banjo workshop at the first Vandalia in 1977, where he has been a fixture ever since; and
Whereas he is one of a small handful of native West Virginia musicians actively engaged in preserving the traditional music of the Mountain State; and
Whereas he has an avid following of students and friends attracted to his unique teaching style and cultural interpretation that he has developed over the past 50 years; and
Therefore I, by the authority vested in me to foster the preservation of West Virginia’s traditional culture, do present to Dwight Diller, the Vandalia Award for the year 2019.
ATTACHED PHOTOGRAPH CUTLINE: 2019 Vandalia Award winner Dwight Diller. Photograph courtesy of Bo Wriston.